Vitality Materialized: On The Piercing And Adornment Of The Body In Mesoamerica
AIA Society: New York CityLecturer: Andrew Finegold
In ancient Mesoamerica, the human body was regularly adorned with finely crafted ornaments. These were often made of highly valued and symbolically charged materials that manifested a cluster of interrelated ideas connected to creative energies and natural fecundity. Much recent scholarly attention has been given to materials from which Mesoamerican jewelry was made, including their particular qualities, attributes, and place within the indigenous worldview. This talk takes a complementary approach to such studies by considering the material and ontological implications of the way some ornaments were articulated with the human body: the piercing of the flesh. In addition to creating spaces to accommodate jewels, the perforation of the body was an activity that carried social significance, most notably in the form of auto-sacrificial bloodletting, but also in rituals that accompanied coming-of-age ceremonies and accession rites. It is argued that all such interventions into the human body should be viewed as a continuum of related behaviors and that holes made within the flesh served as a conduit for the flow of life and vitality. Placed within them, ornaments did more than merely indicate the wearer’s status. They drew attention toward, alluded to, and made tangible and permanent the vital potency of the somatic voids they occupied, and, by extension, the charisma of the bodies that hosted them.
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